THE Goulburn Valley Suicide Awareness Group will be running their second Goulburn Valley Suicide Awareness Walk on Sunday, September 11 starting at Yea Railway Station at 9.30am. Walk organiser Jacky Gilbee said they are hoping to see an increase of participants this year of 150 or more.
“This year we have asked the participants of last year to bring a buddy so we’re hoping that we’ll have at least another half again from last year,” she said.
Invited participants include furry friends with Ms Gilbee encouraging participants to bring their dogs to walk alongside them. Dogs participating in the walk must remain on lead.
“Last year out of the blue I walked my son Russell’s dog, and we were really inundated with dogs at the walk. There were heaps,” she said.
“We are encouraging you to bring a buddy or a dog as all are welcome.”
Ms Gilbee said that the lack of access to these suicide awareness walks in the area was a major inspiration to establish the event.
After losing her son Russell Stacpool to suicide in 2018, it was suggested to Ms Gilbee by her counsellor at Support After Suicide to attend a walk. With there only being walks held in Mount Macedon, Melbourne, Mornington and Albury, her counsellor had provided her the information for a walk being held in Melbourne. She said that, being “a country person”, having to go to the city gave her anxiety.
“Instead of being a thing to look forward to, it was something I was actually quite stressed about because I worried about things including where I was going to park or will I get there in time. Things like that,” she said.
Instead, Ms Gilbee decided to attend the “beautiful” Mount Macedon walk where she was “overwhelmed”.
“I think I was overwhelmed with how many people there were and that were all there because they had lost someone,” she said.
“I did feel like there was a blanket around me when I got there and I felt like I was able to talk about my experience whereas I had to keep it to myself up until that stage.
“Or at the walk you could be as quiet as a mouse and walk with others and still felt you were with others that were in the same realm as what you were feeling.
“From there I went to other walks and suddenly realised that we needed this walk and that we needed one in Central Victoria.”
Ms Gilbee said that events like these “bring good out of the bad” and from her experience came the walk and awareness in the area about suicide.
“Russell brought the stigma around suicide forward to Yea and, to me, up until that point people didn’t talk of it,” Ms Gilbee said.
“Once my son took his life the funeral itself was huge.
“I remember my ex-husband thinking that no one would turn up because it was all quite horrible but in the end many from far and wide cane to his funeral and it was a very big thing.
“That just told you that everyone needed to talk about it and nobody was and by having this walk it brings awareness to Yea to hopefully stamp this out.”
The walk is intended to be one of joy and remembrance for those who have suffered a loss due to suicide.
“The walk is for the people that are left behind, but we are there to support people that are feeling that way or thinking that way,” Ms Gilbee said.
“At our event I want to make it a happy one and it is for people to remember the one you’ve lost, even if it’s one day a year.
“I would like it to be a happy event and it has been so far.”
Tony Jacobs, president of Yea Rotary, said the aim of the walk is awareness.
“We’re not Lifeline or any of the others. We don’t see it as our mission to prevent suicide,” he said.
“But it is to raise awareness and indirectly, hopefully by raising awareness it will help people make up their minds but more importantly support people who have lost someone to suicide. That’s what it’s about.
“Jacky has taken it upon herself to do something about suicide and what she’s taken on is an amazing effort.”
Mr Jacobs said the event was not a fundraiser but is a free event with sponsors and donations covering the costs of the day.
Registrations and check in for the event open at 8.30am and live music will be available for attendees to enjoy before the day commences. Upon arrival, walkers will collect their free support pack and a memorial rock to carry with them on their walk. The rock can have a written message or name of a loved one and they can place it during the walk, drop it into the river, or take it home. Coffee, information and merchandise will also be available on the day.
Guest speakers will begin the event with Ms Gilbee sharing her experience, youth advocate Neil Milton from 4 Child Safe talking about his personal experience and the shock of suicide and Emma Knapp from Wellways will share her personal experience and what brought her to Wellways. There will also be counsellors available on the day if attendees would like to speak to somebody.
Cindy McLeish, Member for Eildon, will read the honor role for the second consecutive year. This is a list of family members and friends that attendees have lost to suicide. Both Ms Gilbee and Mr Jacobs said Ms McLeish was very supportive of the cause.
At 10am walkers will depart from Yea Railway Station to undertake the 6km walk, crossing the Melba Highway and walking along the rail trail to two bridges. Those who may not be able to walk are still invited to participate in the day and are welcome to stay at the station while others complete the walk. It is recommended walkers come prepared for rainy weather conditions including bringing umbrellas.
On one of the bridges, a 50 metre banner will be revealed. This was a surprise to last year’s attendees.
“None of the walkers knew we had this as it only goes up on the day and comes down the same day,” she said.
“Once they got to that bridge I think they felt overwhelmed, felt lots of pride and felt great that they had walked and made it even clearer to anybody that was even passing by that we’re bringing awareness to suicide.”
At 11.30am walkers will return to Year Railway Station for a free sausage sizzle courtesy of the Rotary Club of Yea and enjoy more live music. The event will then conclude at 12.30pm.
Registrations for the walk will be accepted on the day but Ms Gilbee asks, if possible, for those interested to register prior at gvsag.org.au/gvsaw22 or if registering a group please email email@example.com with the full name, email and mobile number of each participant. Those under 15 do not need to provide their phone number and email but please indicate which adult is responsible for them during the walk.
Those interested in volunteering can contact Goulburn Valley Suicide Awareness at at gvsag.org.au/contact or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org